The proposed 2.5 percent cap on money raised by taxes will likely be the most controversial topic at both the town and school deliberative meetings Monday and Wednesday.
A cap on money raised by taxes is more complicated than a spending cap, so it won't be a surprise if discussions at both meetings drift into the weeds, as voters pepper the sponsors with questions.
Here's a primer on how the tax cap works.
It is a bit complicated because the town and school budgets include money raised from taxes (reflected in your tax bill) and money received as revenue from other sources.
The town, for example, gets money for vehicle registrations and other permits. The schools receive money from the state, the feds and from surrounding towns which pay tuition to send their children to Conway schools.
For the schools and the town, budget planning with this tax cap adds a layer of complexity because of the uncertainties of those outside revenues.
So, for instance, if outside revenues go up, the town and schools would have more money to spend than allowed by the tax cap.
Conversely, if revenues fall, the town and schools would not have the ability to make up the shortfall beyond raising taxes 2.5 percent, and budgets would be cut — dramatically.
Although the tax cap if approved wouldn't take effect until next year, this is how it would change the budgets this year.
Of the town's nearly $10 million budget, about $8 million is raised through taxes. If the tax cap were in place this year the town would be allowed no more than an $180,000 increase, which is about $400,000 short of the actual proposed budget.
The school budget is $34 million, of which $13 million is raised by taxes, and it is up $1.4 million. The tax cap would limit that increase to about $400,000, meaning $1 million would have to be cut.
Not surprisingly, elected officials are overwhelmingly against the tax cap as it limits their power to increase the budgets.
School board member Joe Lentini's comment this week summed up the sentiment of both boards when he said officials are "elected to do a job and now this is telling us what to do."
True enough, but beyond elected officials taking the tax cap as a personal affront, they should take seriously property owners so outraged by high taxes they are motivated enough to take matters into their hands.
Although both the town and the schools would likely take hits to their budgets with a tax cap, disaffected voters are mostly unhappy with the schools.
The schools' proposed budget including special articles is up 9 percent this year, meaning taxes on a $200,000 home will go up about $208. Last year the increase was $266.
Voters are frustrated at the school board's inability to come up with a long-term plan to restructure the school system --- which at the least means closing one or two elementary schools, and reforming health care --- to reflect the reality of a steep decline in student enrollment that shows no signs of ebbing.
It's too early to tell whether the tax cap is a good idea, and even if it survives intact from the deliberative meetings it will need a three-fifths majority vote to pass at the ballot box in April.
Objecting to the tax cap, school board member Mark Hounsell said he didn't care "if it's on a gold tablet brought down from Mount Washington, I will not be told what I will or won't do."
We say, neither should voters. And in that spirit we ask those who attend the deliberative sessions not to derail the tax cap and to allow all voters to decide whether it passes or fails at the polls in April.
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 04:33
By Mark Guerringue
Visualize late Sunday night Sun editor Bart Bachman sitting at a computer in his home putting the results of the Super Bowl in Monday's "paper."
Paper is in quotes because the Monday edition of the Sun is 100 percent digital. The only way to read it is by smart phone, tablet or computer, from which stories can be seen on the Sun's website or its e-reader, a screen version of the paper that looks like the paper complete with pages that turn.
Like a lot of things, media is transforming at lightning speed, and, after the economy crashed four years ago, the Sun ceased publishing the Monday paper.
Last September, the Sun re-introduced the Monday paper but in digital format only. So far, 7,100 people have signed up to receive it via email, and the list of readers grows by 100 to 200 a week.
The image of Bart sitting at his home computer is startlingly different than from Super Bowl Sunday in 1989, when the very first print edition of the Sun was put together.
This year marks the Sun's 25th anniversary of the founding of the Sun, and to the three of us who watched Joe Montana and the 49ers win that Super Bowl in 1989 while preparing to put the first edition of the Sun "to bed," that era seems both like yesterday and an eon ago.
On that Sunday night, my founding partner Adam Hirshan, pressroom manager Frank Haddy and I waited for the results of the Super Bowl to trickle in from Associated Press on the tiny screen of an Apple Mac Plus.
(In a recent column about that first night, I mistakenly said the three of us were waiting by the Mac Plus for the results to trickle in over a dial-up modem. That was wrong. The Internet was only first conceived in Switzerland in 1989, and opened to the public in 1993. I had forgotten, but the Sun then received the feed from Associated Press from a satellite aimed at a three-meter dish located in back of the Sun's building on Seavey Street.)
So while Bart last night settled into bed after posting the story and uploading the entire Monday paper to the Internet, our work, on Super Bowl Sunday a quarter century ago, had just begun.
The short story of a very long night is, even with Frank's experience as a seasoned pressman in Danbury, Conn., it took us all night to print 3,000 papers using for the first time a very-used printing press. The first usable copy rolled off the press at 7:20 am.
It was a big year for the Sun, obviously, but 1989 was also a huge year on the world stage.
As if conceiving of the Internet wasn't enough for one year, in 1989 the Berlin Wall came down ushering in the post Soviet Union era, and the "Tank Man" stood in Tiananmen Square.
Though it was a break-out year for technology and world politics, it was more of a place-holder year for American pop culture.
Popular music was pretty bad (the number one song was "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by Poison), while the movies and TV, though solid, were less than ground breaking with Michael Keaton's Batman and The Cosby Show taking the top spots. (A special nod to baby boomers, however, many of whom remember “When Harry Met Sally” as the best rom-com ever.)
And the Super Bowl? In 1989 Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen broadcast the game from Miami. A commercial cost $650,000, and the halftime show was "Be Bop Bamboozled in 3-D" featuring "Elvis Presto" and hundreds of Florida-area dancers. (Ironically, not one Elvis Presley song was performed.)
Several scenes included computer generated 3-D images. Prior to the game, Coca-Cola (all this trivia comes from Wikipedia) distributed 3-D glasses at retailers for viewers to use. At halftime, Diet Coke aired the first commercial in 3-D.
The game also marked the debut of the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter. The first winner was an ad from American Express starring Saturday Night Live stars Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz.
"How did it get so late so soon?" uttered one of Dr. Seuss' characters. Twenty-five years ago it got really late really soon for the three of us covered in ink but proud as peacocks in the morning sun that we got the first edition out the door.
Sunday night it got a little late for Bart. With cup of tea in hand, he moved from his living room to the computer screen, and got the Monday edition out the door with the push of the "publish" button.
How late will it be for the person who finishes the Sun on Super Bowl Sunday 25 years from now?
Given the incredible changes of the last 25 years, who knows.
The only sure thing is there will be a Super Bowl.
Mark Guerringue is publisher of The Conway Daily Sun
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 05:26